Tag Archive for: gold
Contact: Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition, (202) 207-2820, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC–The Child Labor Coalition (CLC) today joins nearly 30 NGOs and trade unions from around the world in calling on the jewelry industry to ensure responsible sourcing of precious metals and gems. One million children toil in mines, often extracting metals, including gold and silver, and gems like jade, emeralds, and diamonds. The work is extremely hazardous, putting children at risk of serious injury and death. Many child miners use toxic substances such as mercury that can cause severe damage to their developing neurological systems. Mining also causes profound ecological damage in many communities, polluting waterways and soil and endangering the health of communities.
“Consumers purchase nearly $300 billion in jewelry each year,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League (NCL) and co-chair of the CLC, whose 38 member organizations have worked to reduce child labor around the world for nearly three decades. “It’s time for jewelry companies to do more to provide consumers with jewelry that isn’t tainted with the scourges of child labor and forced labor. Existing mechanisms to clean up this supply chain have not gone far enough. It’s time for greater transparency. Jewelry companies must take responsibility for their supply chains.”
“The prevalence of child labor in the jewelry supply chains is a major concern,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s director of child labor advocacy and coordinator of the CLC. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, child labor is found in gold mining in 21 countries. Child labor is also used to produce silver in Bolivia, rubies and jade in Burma, and diamonds in six African countries. In the Philippines, children do compression mining of gold, submerged under muddy water while they breathe air through flimsy plastic hoses.
Today, the NGOs and trade unions are issuing a Call to Action to the jewelry industry calling on companies to:
- Put in place and implement a robust supply chain due diligence policy;
- Ensure full chain of custody over gold and diamonds by requiring evidence of business transactions and their transport routes from their suppliers;
- Assess and respond to human rights risks throughout their supply chains, and ensuring that workers have a right to unionize and access to effective remedy;
- Use independent third-party audits;
- Publicly report on their human rights due diligence on an annual basis;
- Publish the names of gold and diamond suppliers and their independent third-party audit mechanisms;
- Actively seek gold and diamonds from artisanal and small-scale mines that are not associated with human rights violations and willing to formalize;
- Improve human rights conditions in artisanal and small-scale mining communities;
- Support multi-stakeholder initiatives designed to strengthen responsible minerals sourcing and work with mining cooperatives and trade unions.*
“Through this ‘Call to Action’ and the accompanying campaign, we hope to see real engagement and transformation of the jewelry industry,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum and chair of the CLC’s International Issues Committee.
The CLC also applauds Human Rights Watch’s new report, “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewelry Companies,” which examines the sourcing of gold and diamonds by 13 major jewelry and watch brands that generate more than $30 billion in annual revenue in the United States.
*The campaign action steps are spelled out in greater detail by Human Rights Watch on its web site.
About the Child Labor Coalition
The Child Labor Coalition, which has 38 member organizations, represents consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. The CLC’s website and membership list can be found at StopChildLabor.org.
By Deborah Andrews, CLC Contributing Writer
In September 2015, Human Rights Watch released a report, “Phillipines: Children Risk Death to Dig and dive for Gold,” exposing the desperate working conditions of many of those involved in the Filipino gold mining industry. It is a worthy, informative and thought provoking read. In 2014, the Philippines produced 18 tons of gold. HRW researchers discovered that an estimated 70-80% came from small-scale mines, financed by local businessmen and operated without any basic machinery. These mines are worked by 200,000-300,000 people — many of them children aged 11-17, but some as young as 9 years old.
Most gold in the Philippines is underwater. To mine it, workers dive into narrow shafts often ten yards deep and only two feet wide. Using oxygen tubes to breathe, operated by a diesel compressor at the surface, workers can stay mining under water for 1-2 hours at a time. This is hazardous work. HRW researchers found that compressors frequently break due to mudslides; workers get extremely cold underwater; the diesel compressors can cause carbon monoxide poisoning; and a bacterium in the water causes a skin disease known as Romborombo that leaves skin irritated and infected.
Dry shafts can be 25 yards deep and have oxygen pumped into them by an air blower. Workers often work up to 24-hour shifts with only a short break above ground. There are frequent accidents. In 2014, two brothers suffocated, but the practice continues.
Disturbingly, HRW report authors discovered that mercury is widely used to process the gold. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, causing muscle spasms, brain damage, permanent disability, and even death. It is particularly harmful to children’s developing nervous systems. This unrestricted mercury use is now also contaminating the fish population, a vital food source – further endangering the people.
- It is estimated that around 1 million children work in mines throughout the world.
- Mining is considered a form of hazardous labor unfit for children under any circumstances, including poverty. Mining can lead to serious injuries; health consequences and an unknown number of children lose their lives while mining every year.
- Around the world, children, ages 5-17, work in mines for as little as $2 per day.Because of the relatively small number of child miners (one million), compared to child laborers in agriculture (over 100 million), child mining has not received the attention it deserves. Additionally, mining often takes place in temporary, remote, small-scale locations making it difficult to regulate and monitor.
- Because of the relatively small number of child miners (one million), compared to child laborers in agriculture (over 100 million), child mining has not received the attention it deserves. Additionally, mining often takes place in temporary, remote, small-scale locations making it difficult to regulate and monitor.
- Children can be found working in mines in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and in parts of Europe.
- Work for child miners includes digging shafts, crushing rocks, and carrying ore in gold mines and digging, scraping and lifting in salt mines and carrying and crushing large stones in quarries.
- Child miners face many potential health consequences due to the nature of their work including: over-exertion , respiratory ailments, headaches, joint problems, hearing and vision loss.
- In addition to the risks faced by all child miners, children miners in gold also face potential side effects from working with Mercury. Mercury is a highly toxic substance used to extract gold. Mercury poisoning can affect a person’s brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs. Additionally, Mercury poisoning is extremely detrimental to children, affecting their nervous system development leading to long-term developmental disabilities.
- Children are often forced into mines by poverty. Human Rights Watch, a CLC member, believes that the boycott of goods produced from mines where children work is not the answer. Reducing the income of already impoverished communities can lead to higher levels of children labor. Instead, companies and their supplies need to work to initiate programs removing children from the supply chain.Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom are top destinations for products of child mining. Consumers often buy diamonds, gold and precious gems from retailers with disregard to the origin of their jewelry and the human toll that helped produce it.
- Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom are top destinations for products of child mining. Consumers often buy diamonds, gold and precious gems from retailers with disregard to the origin of their jewelry and the human toll that helped produce it.
- ILO “Child labor in Salt Mining: The Problem”, ILO: “Child labor in Stone Quarrying: The Problem, Global March: https://www.globalmarch.org/content/children-engaged-unsafe-mining
- ILO “Child Labour in Gold Mining: The Problem”, EPA https://www.epa.gov/hg/effects.htm
- ILO “Child Labour in Gold Mining: The Problem”, EPA https://www.epa.gov/hg/effects.htm
- Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/11/africas-child-mining-shame
- Global March: https://www.globalmarch.org/content/children-engaged-unsafe-mining
For Immediate Release
Tanzania: Hazardous Life of Child Gold Miners
Government, World Bank, Donors Should Address Child Labor in Mines
(Dar Es Salaam, August 28, 2013) – Children as young as eight-years-old are working in Tanzanian small-scale gold mines, with grave risks to their health and even their lives, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Tanzanian government should curb child labor in small-scale mining, including at informal, unlicensed mines, and the World Bank and donor countries should support these efforts.
The 96-page report, “Toxic Toil: Child Labor and Mercury Exposure in Tanzania’s Small-Scale Gold Mines,” describes how thousands of children work in licensed and unlicensed small-scale gold mines in Tanzania, Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer. They dig and drill in deep, unstable pits, work underground for shifts of up to 24 hours, and transport and crush heavy bags of gold ore. Children risk injury from pit collapses and accidents with tools, as well as long-term health damage from exposure to mercury, breathing dust, and carrying heavy loads. A 17-year-old boy who survived a pit accident told Human Rights Watch, “I thought I was dead, I was so frightened.”
“Tanzanian boys and girls are lured to the gold mines in the hopes of a better life, but find themselves stuck in a dead-end cycle of danger and despair,” said Janine Morna, children’s rights research fellow at Human Rights Watch. “Tanzania and donors need to get these children out of the mines and into school or vocational training.”
Many children who work in mining are orphans or other vulnerable children who lack basic necessities and support. Human Rights Watch also found that girls on and around mining sites face sexual harassment, including pressure to engage in sex work. Some girls become victims of commercial sexual exploitation and risk contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.
Human Rights Watch visited 11 mining sites in Geita, Shinyanga, and Mbeya regions, and interviewed more than 200 people, including 61 children working in small-scale gold mining. The employment of children in dangerous mining work is one of the worst forms of child labor under international agreements, to which Tanzania is a party.
“On paper, Tanzania has strong laws prohibiting child labor in mining, but the government has done far too little to enforce them,” Morna said. “Labor inspectors need to visit both licensed and unlicensed mines regularly, and ensure employers face sanctions for using child labor.”
Child laborers, as well as children living near mining sites, are at serious risk of mercury poisoning. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and can cause lifelong disability to children, whose developing bodies are more easily affected by the heavy metal. The miners, including children, mix mercury with crushed ground ore and burn the resulting gold-mercury amalgam to release the gold, exposing them to poisonous mercury fumes. Even small children who are not working are often present during this process, which is sometimes carried out in the home.
Most adult and child miners are unaware of these health risks. Health workers lack training and facilities and are not equipped to diagnose or treat mercury poisoning. Existing laws and initiatives on mercury have largely failed to reduce mercury use.
Tanzania has helped craft a new global treaty to reduce mercury exposure worldwide, which more than 140 governments agreed upon in January 2013. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, named for the site in Japan of a mercury poisoning disaster half a century ago, will be adopted in October near Minamata.
“Tanzania helped bring about the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” Morna said. “Now, to protect the future of its own people and of its own growing mining industry, it needs to take the lead to protect its children – by monitoring, testing, and treating them for mercury exposure and getting them out of the mines.”
Working in the mines interferes with children’s education. Children working in mining sometimes skip classes or drop out of school altogether. Teachers told Human Rights Watch that school attendance and performance decreased when a gold mine opened nearby. In addition, many adolescents seek full-time employment, including in mining, because they lack access to secondary school or vocational training.
A 15-year-old boy in the Geita district summed up the impact of mining on his life: “It is difficult to combine mining and school. I don’t get time to go through tutoring [which takes place on the weekends]. I wonder about the mine, it distracts me…. One day … I fell sick [after mining and missed classes]. I had pain all over my body.”
The Tanzanian government should expand access to secondary school and vocational training and improve child protection, Human Rights Watch said. The government and donors should provide financial and political backing for the new action plan on the most vulnerable children and include orphans from mining areas in the Tanzania Social Action Fund’s program of grants and conditional cash transfers to vulnerable populations.
The World Bank and other donors to the mining sector should also support steps to end child labor in mining and reduce the exposure of children and adults to mercury, Human Rights Watch said. For example, they should help children transition from work in unlicensed mines to schooling, and ensure that newly licensed mines do not use child labor. A current US$55 million World Bank project to support the mining sector does not directly address child labor.
The gold industry has a responsibility to ensure it does not benefit directly or indirectly from unlawful child labor, Human Rights Watch said. Yet most gold traders Human Rights Watch interviewed in Tanzania had no procedures to keep gold mined by children out of their supply chains.
Small traders typically purchase gold directly at the mines or in mining towns and then sell it to larger traders in Tanzania. Sometimes the gold passes through several intermediaries before reaching the traders who export the gold. According to the Tanzanian government, small-scale miners produced about 1.6 tons of gold in 2012 – worth about US$85 million.
“Whether small or large, Tanzanian or global, businesses should avoid becoming entangled with unlawful child labor in their supply chain,” Morna said. “As those with the buying power, gold traders have leverage over their suppliers. They should use it to protect children and to protect consumers from buying gold tainted by child labor.”
For selected accounts from the report, please see below.
“Toxic Toil: Child Labor and Mercury Exposure in Tanzania’s Small-Scale Gold Mines” is available at:
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Tanzania, please visit:
For more information, please contact:
In Dar Es Salaam, Janine Morna (English): + 255-75-778-3770; or + 1-646-575-6400; or email@example.com
In Dar Es Salaam, Juliane Kippenberg (English, French, German): +255-75-905-7955; or +1-917-213-4228; or firstname.lastname@example.org
In New York, Zama Coursen-Neff (English): +1 917-519-6512; or +212-216-1826; or email@example.com; or follow on twitter @ZamaHRW
In Nairobi, Agnes Odhiambo (English, Swahili): +254-72967-1187 (mobile); or firstname.lastname@example.org
Accounts from Tanzanian child miners in “Toxic Toil”
“I was digging with my colleague. I entered into a short pit. When I was digging he told me to come out, and when I was about to come out, the shaft collapsed on me, reaching the level of my chest … they started rescuing me by digging the pit and sent me to Chunya hospital.” – 13-year-old boy, Chunya district, December 2012
“One time the pit collapsed. It was September last year. I thought I was dead, I was so frightened. I was digging down and I went horizontally and then the rest of the land slid. I was just behind the landslide, not inside. Two of my friends [both adults] who were on the other side died. I was so scared. I just cried and despaired.” – 17-year-old boy, Kahama district, October 2012
“I was hurt from the instrument I use to dig. I was drilling. I was sent to hospital. I hurt a toe. The whole nail was peeled off. I took medicine. When I was drilling I drilled on the stone and then the instrument lost direction and landed on my foot…. I was 12 [when the accident happened].” – 13-year-old boy, Chunya district, December 2012
“[I] once knocked till my nail was removed. I was taken to a hospital and they put a bandage…. I was seven years old. It was a hammer that hit me…. [I am] scared a lot, nowadays I do not prefer crushing, I do other processes.” – 10-year-old girl, Kahama district, December 2012
“A lot of men approach me … always showing me money…. Sex work is very common. [There are] many women coming from town…. I had a friend who is doing that. Most of those are working in the bar. Sometimes they stay here [on the mine] … they sacrifice themselves in the forest. They create a hut and stay.” – 15-year-old girl working in mining, Chunya district, December 2012
“It’s a bad situation here. There are no latrines and no water for bathing…. I do not like it here. Men want to have relationships…. A guy came to the restaurant and said I want you to be my girlfriend and to make you laugh, because I love you … Later when I refused, he said I was foolish. There have been many other cases like this. Some come to buy you food or soft drinks…. I would like to go to Mwanza [the capital of the region] and get tuition to go to school there again.” – 16-year-old girl selling food on a mining site, Kahama district, October 2012
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JEANETTE PAVINI’S BUYER BEWARE [from MarketWatch]
By Jeanette Pavini
Award-winning broadcast journalist and author Jeanette Pavini writes the Buyer Beware column for MarketWatch and wants to hear your stories, questions, problems and complaints. Write to her at BuyerBewareMKTW@gmail.com .
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Gold has been one of the greatest investment stories of the past decade, and its safe-haven appeal is likely to continue, with demand remaining solid for physical gold and gold jewelry. But regardless of the price gyrations in gold futures and demand, do we really know what the cost of gold is in human terms?
The surge in demand for physical gold has not only polished the fortunes of large mining companies, but has also driven a modern-day gold rush: The United Nations estimates there are between 15 million and 20 million gold miners in more than 70 countries worldwide.
What consumers need to be aware of is where the gold GLD -0.07% and gold jewelry they purchase originates from. For the most part, gold comes from large-scale industrial mining operations which require skilled labor. Large mining operations in developing country can spur economic growth for the region.
But some artisanal and small-scale mining operations, known as ASMs, operate in poorer regions and places where child exploitation and human trafficking is common. Read more
List Points to Some of 2012’s Child Labor Priorities
Washington, DC—Advocates from the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), a group representing more than two dozen organizations concerned with protecting working youth, has released a list of the top ten child labor stories from 2011. The list represents international and American issues in child labor that received considerable attention in 2011 and what advocates hope is an increase in attention to exploitation faced by vulnerable child workers that has previously gone unnoticed by mainstream media.
“The year brought some much needed attention to serious child labor problems in the supply chains of some of the world’s largest companies,” said Reid Maki, Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition and the Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards for the National Consumers League (NCL). “However, we also saw a disturbing move in a few states to roll back long-standing child labor protections and a much-publicized attack on child labor laws by a presidential candidate.
The year’s 10 biggest stories, according to the CLC, included (in no particular order):
Apple acknowledges that child labor contributed to the making of iPhones and other electronic gadgets in its Chinese factories. In February, Apple announced that it had found 91 children worked at its suppliers in 2010—a nine-fold increase from the previous year. The company also acknowledged that 137 workers had been poisoned by the chemical, n-hexane, at a supplier’s manufacturing facility and that less than a third of the facilities it audited were complying with Apple’s code on working hours. In the year prior to December 2010, Apple had sales of over $65 billion.
Victoria’s hidden “secret”: children help harvest the cotton that goes into garments. Bloomberg Markets Magazine revealed in December that some of the cotton retail giant Victoria’s Secret uses is harvested by young children in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. The piece profiled 13-year-old Clarisse Kambire, who works on a cotton farm, where she said she is routinely beaten by the owner. By hand, Clarisse performs work that many farmers use a plow and oxen to perform and often works in 100-plus degree heat and eats just one meal a day. Some days she gets no food. Many of the children like Clarisse are considered “foster children” and receive no wages— most do not attend school. Limited Brand, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has annual sales in excess of $5 billion.
CLC members—the Ramsay Merriam Fund, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association—made this web site possible through their generous support.
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